Man who broke cattle TB laws spared jail

Fri, Jun 1, 2012, 01:00

THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture says it costs €90 million a year to prevent the spread of TB in cattle. The information came to light in a case in which a cattle dealer was fined and sentenced for breaches of the law.

Andrew Wilson (41), Kilpatrick, Bandon, Co Cork, was fined €3,500 after he pleaded guilty to 12 breaches of animal health legislation governing the control of TB-infected cattle.

He pleaded guilty at Macroom District Court to 10 counts of moving cattle into a restricted herd between October 31st, 2008, and September 19th, 2009, contrary to the Bovine Tuberculosis Order 1989.

Pleading for leniency, defence solicitor Kieran Griffin said his client had sold land in 2006 and invested heavily in stock, building up to 2,000 animals, but he found himself under financial pressure and facing logistical difficulties dealing with so many animals after being served with a restriction order.

Mr Griffin said Wilson had a family who were dependent on him and his business for an income.

Judge Tim Lucey said it was a serious matter that had repercussions for the Irish cattle industry as it was vital that Ireland’s reputation as a beef exporter was not tarnished.

Other farmers who abided by the regulations should not have to suffer because of Wilson’s actions, he added.

He said he believed the appropriate penalty was a custodial sentence and the only issue was whether to suspend such a sentence.

Wilson’s guilty plea was to his credit in that regard, Judge Lucey said, as he imposed a six-month suspended sentence.

Judge Lucey fined Wilson €1,000 for breaching the restriction rules on movement and €2,500 for failing to make his register available for inspection. He also ordered him to pay €2,000 in legal costs and €1,500 in witness expenses.

Wilson, a third-generation cattle dealer, also pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to make his herd register available for inspection to Department of Agriculture vets John McCarthy and Louis Reardon at Clonakilty district veterinary office on July 8th, 2009, and on November 12th, 2009.

Mr Reardon, from the Department of Agriculture’s special investigation unit, said that when a herd tested positive for TB, a restriction order was served and no animal could be moved except under permit or until the order was lifted, which only happened after two clear tests.

The purpose of the regulations was to control the spread of disease, he said.

Every year the Department of Agriculture spent approximately €60 million, while the private sector spent a further €30 million on controlling the spread of bovine TB, Mr Reardon added.

The department came to suspect Wilson was trading cattle despite a restriction order imposed in March 2007.

On May 14th, 2009, an inspection found his herd contained animals that he later registered retrospectively when they were tested on September 18th, 2008.

He said the investigation led them to believe Wilson had used other people’s herd numbers to move cattle while under restriction.

They believed he used one such herd number for 367 cattle movements in 2008 and used another such herd number for 306 movements in 2009.

He said that in many cases Wilson had failed to notify the Department of Agriculture of cattle movements and in other cases he had filed false notifications, and then only after the department had discovered that he had animals that were not registered at the time of testing.

Mr Reardon told the court that Wilson had a previous conviction from Cork Circuit Criminal Court on March 6th, 2002, for attempting to obtain compensation from the Department of Agriculture by false pretences, for which he was given a two-year suspended sentence.